BY DUSTIN SIGGINS
“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
This quote is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president and a man who died 193 years ago. But you don’t have to be a Founding Father to take advantage of “luck” when it crosses your path—as long as you’ve prepared for it.
Being prepared led William Daniels to play John Adams as the President of the United States in a special White House edition of the play “1776,” winning two Emmys in the 1980s and playing Mr. Feeny on “Boy Meets World.” He had over 35 years of dancing, acting and directing experience before entering 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. As he and his Emmy Award-winning wife, Bonnie Bartlett, told me in an interview, they considered themselves successful long before they were household names. Having regular roles and making money were their barometers, and they attributed their rise to discipline, longevity in the acting industry and relationship-building.
That success continues today. Daniels is still acting at 92—including the week prior to our interview.
Daniels and Bartlett aren’t businesspeople. But like Jefferson’s attribution of “luck” to hard work, their principles of success are a guide for any entrepreneur.
First, define success. Set your goals, strategies and parameters before spending a dime on any business venture or company strategy. These internal barometers keep you on track as critics target you, the slow season of your business approaches and as your competition seeks to take you down. For Bartlett and Daniels, success was having income through regular acting roles long before becoming “successful” by society’s standards.
What is your definition of success that nobody can take from you?
Second, be mission-focused while continually assessing your goals, strategies and parameters. Keep yourself on track while being open to new paths that present themselves. Disciplined, process-driven people find luck like others find pennies on the road. New business opportunities, unexpected clients and great employees are everywhere. You just have to find them, as Daniels found roles as George Feeny and John Adams—roles he never anticipated when he entered Hollywood.
Third, be proactively patient. Daniels was over 40 years old before he rose to national acclaim and was invited to the White House as John Adams. Many entrepreneurs burn out fast because they sought opportunities for which they were not prepared, while others spend years frustrated by small-dollar, high-maintenance customers.
Successful entrepreneurs know that success takes time. Today’s clients bring revenue, build the brand and fine-tune a company’s process so that the “big job” is simply the next evolution of the business—the first of many ideal clients, not a unicorn client which will make or break a business.
Finally, build the right relationships. Daniels and Bartlett became well-respected within Hollywood because they left bad roles, succeeded in good ones and surrounded themselves with like-minded people of all ages and experience. They didn’t rub all the elbows; they rubbed the right ones. Executives should do likewise, staying goal-focused with every professional relationship.
A business owner’s four steps to pro-active preparation for luck will also have the subtle benefit of increasing one’s personal emotional strength. This is necessary when outside critics, jealous competitors, and others decry your success. NBA players are told they are “lucky” to be tall — even though it was their hard work and skill which put them into the league when other tall people didn’t make it. Bill Gates’ brilliance is often attributed to “luck” because he was of a certain age when computers were in their infancy — but he certainly wasn’t the only person working on the future of technology. He was simply the best.
From Jefferson to Daniels to a small business owner, “luck” favors the prepared—those who find luck instead of waiting for it to come to them. And they are ready when it is discovered because they have worked hard and smart.